B612 Foundation Announces Asteroid Finding Mission

SENTINEL orbit showing viewing direction (B612 Foundation/Ball Aerospace)The B612 Foundation announced today the first privately funded deep space mission.

The mission, Sentinel, is an asteroid finding spacecraft that will be launched into a venus-like orbit, from where it is able to map the region near Earth.

The spacecraft will be equipped with a 0.5m diameter Infrared telescope, and will scan the night half of the sky every 26 days.

The B612 Foundation announced today the first privately funded deep space mission.

The mission, Sentinel, is an asteroid finding spacecraft.

It will be launched into a venus-like orbit, from where it is able to map the region near Earth.  This orbit is the most suited to scanning the sky for NEOs, as the orbit closer to the Sun means the spacecraft will orbit the Sun faster than the Earth, covering the sky faster.  The improvement is due to the fact that the telescopes looking for NEOs cannot look towards the Sun, and so can only survey the night sky.

SENTINEL spacecraft (Ball Aerospace/B612 Foundation)

The Need for such a Spacecraft
Rusty Schweickart, Chairman Emeritus of B612, and Apollo 9 Astronaut said “for the first time in history, B612’s Sentinel Mission will create a comprehensive and dynamic map of the inner solar system in which we live – providing vital information about who we are, who are our neighbors, and where we are going”.  He added that “we will know which asteroids will pass close to Earth and when, and which, if any of these asteroids actually threaten to collide with Earth.”

Another key point made by Rusty Schweickart clearly explains the requirement on having such a telescope: “the nice thing about asteroids is that once you’ve found them and once you have a good solid orbit on them you can predict a hundred years ahead of time whether there is a likelihood of an impact with the Earth.”

NEOShield is working towards understanding NEOs such that a mitigation mission could be launched towards a NEO that is discovered on a path to Earth.  However, being able to deflect the asteroid is only half of the problem, as the location and orbit of all the potentally dangerous NEOs needs to be known.

The Sentinel Mission home page can be found at http://b612foundation.org/media/sentinelmission/

The video below includes some more information on the Sentinel mission and the B612 Foundation.

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